20 Dungeon Pits
by Creighton Broadhurst
September 17, 2019
Pits are a lurking danger that have spelled the doom of countless adventurers. Pits can be used to kill, injure or trap intruders, to block progress or to prevent escape. An explorer trapped in a pit with no way of getting out is at the mercy of the first creature or character to discover their predicament.
Other mundane uses for pits include general storage, rubbish dump or prison. Other pits may accidentally (or by design) link a dungeon level to other deeper locations.
- Small holes pierce the bottom few feet of the pit’s walls. They are too small for any character bigger than a halfling child to squeeze through.
- The pit intersects with a natural cave which can be accessed through a narrow crawlway.
- The pit’s rough, uneven floor is difficult terrain.
- Several large boulders lie in the pit; a partially squashed skeleton protrudes from under the largest.
- A pool of pure, cold water covers half the pit’s floor.
- A narrow chasm pierces the pit’s floor; a cold wind issues forth from its depth.
- The pit’s walls are rough and easy to climb.
- The pit has an overhang making it hard to escape.
- A shard of obsidian (or other sharp rock) rears from the pit floor. The shard is sharp and smooth; characters falling while climbing it suffer 2d6 damage as they slide down the rock.
- The pit narrows; at its base it is only 5 ft. wide; character falling into the pit slide down to the bottom and suffer less damage as a result.
- The pit once served as a oubliette. Four sets of rusting manacles are affixed to its walls.
- A ring of crudely carved gargoyles leers down at the pit floor. Set 15 ft. above the pit floor their open mouths connect to chutes elsewhere that can be used to pour burning oil, effluent and other liquids down upon those trapped below.
- Several small holes pierce the floor; a noxious foul-smelling breeze issues forth from within.
- A lurid painting of demons and devils slaughtering humans covers one wall. Several pieces of the painting have been chipped away.
- Niches carved into the walls about 6 ft. from the bottom of this pit each hold a leering humanoid skull.
- A single empty torch sconce juts from one wall. Pulling the sconce causes the pit lid to collapse into the pit. Perceptive characters examining the sconce realise it has a mechanism linked to the pit lid.
- The floor is made of different coloured cobblestones laid out in a simple geometric pattern.
- A stone shelf is cut into one wall. It holds several sets of trail rations. They are all poisoned.
- A ring of crudely carved gargoyles leers down at the pit floor. Set 15 ft. above the floor water trickles from their mouths. The walls and floor are slick.
- The pit is above a natural cavern and the floor is very weak. A falling character creates more cracks in the floor and the rock creaks and groans alarmingly. Six rounds after a character falls into the pit, the floor collapses dumping the unfortunate character into the cavern below. The distance fallen (and what—if anything—lurks in the cavern) are at the GM’s discretion.
The material in this article appears in Dungeon Dressing: Pits, which is available in 5e, Pathfinder 1, Pathfinder 2 and OSR editions at the Raging Swan Press store from 21 October
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